Purpose at Work Predicts if Employees Will Stay or Quit Their Jobs

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In a Gartner article revealing how workplaces will change over the next decade, it describes the future direction of a workplace may be one where employees will work for purpose and passion, not just money.

An article taken from our 2021 insights report uncovers that a sense of purpose is one key aspect of employee well-being at work. This refers to employees experiencing fulfilment, meaning, and progress at work. 

Research found that people who have a strong sense of purpose tend to be more resilient and exhibit better recovery from negative events. Ensuring that employees feel a sense of purpose in their work has become a business imperative.

Senior leaders struggling with retention issues and employees walking out the door have more in common than one might think. They’re both in search of answers.

Employees are reevaluating the meaning their jobs give them—”How does what I do here matter?” “What is my purpose?” “Why am I doing the work I’m doing?”—while CEOs are trying to figure out how to stop their people from leaving.

Leaders often look to money or extra vacation days as solutions when they should prioritize giving workers what they need and want—a sense of purpose at work.

When employees understand that their work matters and their purpose is aligned with that of their company, good things happen. They’re loyal, engaged, and proud of their company—all signs of a great workplace.

If you want to know your employees’ commitment to their jobs, don’t ask them if their salaries are fair, ask about purpose and connection.

Research from us at Great Place to Work® indicates the following three questions will predict workplace turnover, regardless of generation or job type:

  1. Are you proud of where you work?
  2. Do you find meaning in your work?
  3. Do you have fun at work?

If an employee answers “no” to any of those questions, they’re probably going to leave their company. Why?

People want to spend their time in meaningful ways. Purpose is the way you make a difference in the world. It’s why you matter. All humans seek purpose, and employees are emboldened more than ever to go find it.

When employees can connect the dots between their day-to-day tasks with the organization’s mission and strategy, and understand how their individual contributions support progress toward its purpose, they are more likely to feel a sense of purpose at work. Compared with SG Average companies, almost 9 in 10 employees among SG Best companies feel that they make a difference and that their work has special meaning.

2021 Singapore Insights Report

“For me, purpose transcends P&L’s, balance sheets and EBITDA calculations,” says Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work.

“It’s the reason why we spend so much time away from our families to do this thing called ‘work.’ It’s the reason why we are late for soccer games, family dinners, birthday parties, parental visits, daycare pick-ups, vet appointments, and so on. Purpose is also the reason why we sometimes question our priorities and life choices.”

Purpose-driven cultures outperform others

You’ll be hard pressed to find a leader who says purpose doesn’t matter. But you’ll be equally hard pressed to find leaders who treat purpose as a business imperative—unless you’re one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2022, where purpose is prioritized.

Leaders at great workplaces understand that purpose is not found in a mission statement buried in an employee handbook. Rather, they actively help employees connect what they do with the company’s purpose.

And when purpose at work also aligns with an employee’s personal purpose—which is to do much more than just work, but grow, learn, take care of their family and community—they will be more engaged and motivated. That’s the sweet spot you want all employees to achieve.

Employees need to feel appreciated by their managers and see that their work makes a difference. Purpose must be coupled with clarity.

Harvard Business School (HBS) researchers, using Great Place to Work’s extensive database, found that companies whose employees feel a sense of purpose at work and believe their leaders set clear direction and expectation, outperform the stock market by 6.9%.

HBS reported even greater returns when middle managers and individual contributors experience purpose and clarity.

Purpose is also a key driver of employee well-being, which currently is in short supply. Respondents to a survey of more than 14,000 people from 37 countries from Great Place to Work and Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School consistently experienced significant gaps in purpose and connection—two areas needed to flourish at work.

Purpose also impacts innovation. Great Place to Work research discovered that a barrier to innovation has to do with front-line workers experiencing much less purpose than others. And if employees feel they’re not sharing in the company’s mission and excitement, they quickly feel excluded from innovation as well.

More organizations in Singapore are transitioning to a hybrid workplace as the new normal. SG Best companies have demonstrated a purpose-driven, people-first mindset—they have built a high-trust culture, engaged their employees and maximized their potential to facilitate innovation. This differentiates them from their competitors and primes them to be powerful magnets for top talent.

2021 Singapore Insights Report

Workplace expectations have changed. People want meaning in their jobs, and a lack of it will send them out the door. Don’t waste your time trying to match your competitor’s benefits package to attract new talent.

Spend time purposely connecting your mission with employees’ jobs and you’ll create a culture employees will not want to leave.

Show job seekers your workplace has purpose

Great Place to Work Certification™ recognizes employers who create an outstanding employee experience. Certification shows job seekers and customers that you have a clear social purpose and reinforces your company’s values. Learn how to become a Great Place to Work-Certified™ company today.

Roula Amire

Roula Amire is the content director of Great Place to Work®. Roula has 20 years of experience as a journalist and leading company culture and corporate communications content. She has written extensively about employee engagement, well-being, purpose, and other aspects of workplace culture. Her expertise in storytelling, content strategy, writing and editing help elevate the mission of Great Place to Work.

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.